Liam Scarlett's The Cunning Little Vixen. ©ROH, 2019. Photographed by Tristram Kenton

Daichi Ikarashi as the Frog and Malvina Kolbas as the little fox in Liam Scarlett's The Cunning Little Vixen. Photographed by Tristram Kenton ROH

A very big night for a very little girl

LONDON: It was a very big night for a very little girl as Malvina Kolb stepped onto the stage at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden in the premiere of a new ballet, The Cunning Little Vixen. Not only was it a premiere but she was the lead character.

At thirteen years old she created the role of ‘Young Sharp-ears’ in the first scene, a role then developed by Madison Bailey, as Sharp-Ears, the Vixen, from the senior school.

It was a huge thrill and Malvina confessed: ‘Just before the curtain went up, I realised how big this was and I got very nervous. But once I got out on stage, I really enjoyed every second!’

The choreography is by Liam Scarlett, Artist in Residence at The Royal Ballet, who is now an established figure on the British choreographic scene. He has several full-length ballets in company repertoires all around the world and has most recently just produced a new Swan Lake at the Royal Opera House.

Malvina will also be dancing the role of the Young Elizabeth in the revival of his ballet, Frankenstein, which opens inMarch.

Malvina said that Liam was a very kind person to work with. He had also trained at the Royal Ballet School and has written several works for the pupils.

Liam Scarlett's The Cunning Little Vixen. ©ROH, 2019. Photographed by Tristram Kenton.

Liam Scarlett's The Cunning Little Vixen. Photographed by Tristram Kenton ROH

In creating The Cunning Little Vixen, he said that he used the same creative process as he does with the company, encouraging the dancers to try things and to extend their reach. ‘You have to make it real and then you can have fun with it.’

Malvina was nervous at the thought of working with such a famous person ‘but after a while I got used to it and thought it was only fun.’ On stage it is certainly fun as the stage is alive with woodland characters.

Apart from the foxes there are rabbits, chickens, butterflies, badgers and bumble bees all imaginatively costumed by Scarlett himself. There is exciting make-up, furry headdress and fluffy tails.

Scarlett has given each character a very specific style of movement. The butterflies are delicate and graceful, dancing in neat corps de ballet lines, the chickens are a scatty flock that comes to a sad end when they meet up with the fox and feather fly – well they do in the clever video that accompanies the scene.

Daichi Ikarashi as the Frog, dressed all in green with huge goggle eyes, leaps with abandon, while the Dog is a rather macho male, that is until Sharp-ears puts him in his place. She is certainly not a lady to be messed with.

Little Malvina establishes her character from the very first scene and Madison Bailey has a great deal of fun developing her personality through the later scenes.

Inspired by a series of drawings by Stanislav Locke, Leoš Janáčeck’s music brings the pictures to life in a rich texture of orchestral playing to support the choreography which takes these very well-trained ballet dancers beyond the classical confines to explore new territory.

And in Malvina’s words: ‘It feels really fantastic to do a part in a completely new choreography on this famous stage!

Malvina is in Nicola Katrak’s class, Year 8, at The Royal Ballet School. Her early training was in Stockholm where she was studying gymnastics when she attracted the notice of Jenny Westring who became her first ballet teacher and coached her for entry to the RBS in London. Malvina’s proud parents and teacher were in London to see her debut on this famous stage.

The Cunning Little Vixen, The Royal Ballet School, Royal Opera House London

Maggie Foyer
22 April 2019

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